26th Jul2017

‘Karate Kill’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Hayate, Asami, Kirk Geiger, Mana Sakura, Noriaki Kamata, Katrina Leigh Waters, David Sakurai | Written and Directed by Kurando Mitsutake

karate-kill-poster

Kurando Mitsutake is not a name that will spring to mind of many an action movie fan, yet he has helmed a number of films that not only push the envelope of action but of exploitation. His most famous movie, until now, was undoubtedly Gun Woman, a crazy tale of a woman turned into an assassin against her will- complete with gun parts sew INSIDE her body (to evade a pat down obviously). Now Mitsutake gives us his take on that most old-school of action movie themes… revenge!

When Karate master Kenji’s (Hayate) young sister (Mana Sakura) is kidnapped by a dangerous cult, and taken to the U.S. he will stop at nothing to find her. Partnered with a mysterious shot-gun toting partner, Kenji must use his mastery of Karate to dismantle the cult members one by one in spectacular and bloody fashion, until he finds his sister.

Back in the day film distributors used to use wild and crazy box art to sell their VHS wares, on rental store shelves, to an ususpecting public. Yet a lot of the time the wild and garish covers would in no way represent the true nature of the film within, leaving renters disappointed… Why am I telling you this? Well that poster for Karate Kill above is the opposite. It UNDER represents the insanity of Kurando Mitsutake’s latest movie!

Karate Kill is yet another slice of cinematic madness from Mitsutake, one that harkens back to the days of Godfrey Ho’s choppily-edited ninja movies, the epics of Sonny Chiba and those grainy VHS-era relics of kung-fu cinema that inspired a generation of filmmakers (and rappers, cough, Wu-Tang Clan, cough). Only it’s also filled with the type of exploitation action that is typically reserved for horror films. Complete with buckets of blood and gallons of gore and a quirky sensibility that walks the line between parody and perfection. Oh, and did I mention a hero that – despite everything thrown at him, literally and figuratively – keeps on pushing through like an unstoppable arse-kicking machine! Karate Kill‘s Kenji is the modern-day equivalent of the type of hero epitomised in 70s kung-fu by actors like Gordon Liu – with the same balance of strength and vulnerability that makes for an ideal screen hero.

However there’s more to Mitsutake’s film than meets the eye. Karate Kill has a truly intriguing aspect to it that I didn’t expect – and that’s its villain.

Think Charles Manson if he was born in the internet age and you’ll be somewhere close. This is a man who kills for fun, broadcasting his ghastly deeds online for sickos to pay, and subscribe, to watch. It’s the ultimate in voyeurism, if taken to its deadly extreme. Something which has been well-explored in the horror genre since the explosion of the internet, but – and this is the kicker – by bringing it into another genre, Mitsutake gives this particular plot device a new lease of life. Seeing people killed on cam in Karate Kill is like the first time you saw Hostel and/or Saw, it’s that powerful.

Part old-school martial arts film, part revenge film, part exploitation movie and part spaghetti western, Karate Kill raises the bar for not only DTV martial arts movies, but the exploitation genre in general. A film that will, honestly, take some beating!

***** 5/5

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